Just when I thought that I’ve been oh-so-Zen lately.
I recently took a weekend urban meditation retreat with Susan Piver at the Shambhala Center in New York City.
It wasn’t one of those weekends where you spend one 30-minute meditation session at the beginning and at the end of the day, while the rest of the time you twist and bend in all sorts of yoga poses, journaling your soul away and peer-bonding through chakra-opening exercises.
No. Although there was a light amount of yoga stretching involved—and some level of bonding definitely occurred during the small-group discussions—the retreat was mostly meditation, alternating sitting and walking sessions.
I walked away from the experience awareably changed.
I have always strived to maintain a steady meditation practice, but after that particular retreat, it is now gradually growing into a daily habit.
I’m on meditation.
I won’t go into too much detail here as to what meditation has done for me, but I’ll say that it has been helping me soften up and has created a safe space where I can just be. On the days that I wake up and do a meditation session first thing in the morning, life seems somewhat less strenuous. In that sense, meditation always felt to me like a good path to be on.
Meditation would make me ride any stress wave like a pro-surfer on a finely polished Channel Islands board.
Foolishly, that’s precisely what I expected as my practice evolved. I thought I was steadily making progress toward care-freedom.
That was until a series of unfortunate events this past week lead to a cut-off Internet connection, a faulty new modem and a phone call to a customer support rep, who politely informed that the earliest time a specialist can get to my apartment was in exactly five days.
Did I mention this was all happening in present day in NYC?
It’s when all Zen-ness, space, peace, compassion, tolerance was gone. Out. The. Window.
That anxiety-filled first evening without connection was particularly unsettling—and I have unlimited data plan on my smart phone, mind you. But adjusting my eyesight to the small screen as I researched the web felt nothing short of intolerable. Not in the 21st century, and not in New York City.
Get me out of here!
The void of connectedness to the web—heck, to the entire world—felt vast. My frustration-fuelled guilt was even bigger.
I am supposed to be above this, right? I must not get angry and frustrated. I’m expected to be compassionate, to go with the flow, to trust the universe.
Instead, I felt bitter, resentful and ashamed. The complete opposite of mindful.
I wanted out of this state of mind. Immediately.
I tried grasping for good-feeling thoughts. I certainly tried to vent it out—read: complain—to friends, mom, colleagues.
On day two, I was still wound up. I felt like my Zen-ness was enlightenment years away and never coming back.
Then, it hit me.
Sure, I deserve inner peace. But I’m not entitled to it.
Peace of mind is not a given. And it is hardly a permanent condition, even for the most experienced of meditators. I remember Susan telling us during the retreat that the goal of meditation is not to altogether eradicate the anger and frustration out of the human experience.
We all deserve to live in inner peace. But that deservance implies willingness and openness at the bare minimum. Deservance is earned from within. And earning involves flexing that inner peace muscle.
Entitlement, on the other hand, demands circumstantial merit. The expectancy of an alignment of some sort, involving people, places, timing and situations in a way that makes us feel good.
The problem with the latter is that even when granted, it is hardly ever appreciated. That’s because such alignments come and go quicker than you can say “om shanti.”
Embrace the challenging emotions. They won’t last.
That’s the piece of advice I once got from the very wise Danielle LaPorte. And that jolted me out of the monkey-mind circus. Yes, it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable to regress, but it’s part of the journey.
Witness the discomfort and acknowledge its finite life span.
That ought to help you ride the gut-wrenching wave. Maybe not as gracefully as a pro-surfer. And certainly not as smoothly as on a Channel Islands board. But, trust me, at the end of that tide, calmer waters await.
And from there, you can recoup, take a deep breath and build yourself up before the next big wave.
Tonka Dobreva is the lead writer and content curator for Cojourneo—a virtual social platform supporting conscious leaders, entrepreneurs and personal growth seekers. Digging out inspirational, quirky findings (preferably with a dash of science) makes her super happy. OK, maybe not as happy as putting ectopic heartbeat into words.
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